NCSE Symposium

NCSE Symposium: Artists as Partners in Infrastructure Education
At the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE) 2018: The Science, Business, and Education of Sustainable Infrastructure: January 23-25, 2018, Washington, D.C

Abstract: In order to transition to a sustainable future, we need to imagine beyond the way we see things today. Much of the public does not even think about infrastructure, taking it for granted. It is invisible. Artists can and have opened up new ways of seeing and interacting with the public as well as infrastructure professionals. This Symposium, gathers artists and professionals in infrastructure to present innovative projects and discuss the challenges of engaging the public in an area often seen as backstage material for our lives, if seen at all. The group will discuss the role of interdisciplinary teams, including artists in imagining a new story for our interface with the natural world.

Presentation PDF Download HERE.


Jonee Kulman Brigham, Fellow, Institute on the Environment, University of Minnesota; Artist, Owner, Full Spring Studio (Moderator)

Jonee is an environmental architect and artist. At the University of Minnesota, as a Senior Research Fellow and Fellow of Institute on the Environment, she works in the area of Green Schools and Environmental Education from an interdisciplinary design perspective. She is lead researcher developing a green schools program and leads design, art, and research on “Water Journey Camps” and “River Journey,” which use Earth Systems Journey, her art-led environmental education model to show youth how water flows through their learning environment and connects them to the Mississippi River. She is also an artist, practicing both studio and public, participatory environmental art.

Shanai Matteson, Artist & Collaborative Director, Water Bar & Public Studio, Works Progress

Shanai is a writer, public artist, and arts organizer. She loves working with others on collaborative public projects that are rooted in place, and which seek to grow cultures of reciprocity and care. She's most interested in work at the margins of established fields and practices, and believes that edges and intersections provide fertile ground for artists and others to learn and create, with and in community. She is one of the collaborative directors of Water Bar & Public Studio, and she was the director of the City Art Collaboratory, in the city of St. Paul that paired stem professionals and artists in extended dialogue and exploratory works.

Arlene Birt, Visual Storyteller, Background Stories; Associate Professor, Minneapolis College of Art and Design

Arlene Birt is an infodesigner, visual storyteller, public artist and educator. Her work incorporates behavioral psychology to visually explain the stories behind products and places and help individuals connect emotionally to seemingly distant environmental topics. Her work on sustainability – which rides the line between art and education – has been featured in Creative Review (UK), U.S. News and World Report,,, SEED Magazine and at the Barcelona Design Museum. This work resulted in a number of research fellowships and residencies, including a Fulbright fellowship. Birt has published chapters in numerous books, including New Challenges for Data Design, and Sustainable Graphic Design: Tools, Systems and Strategies for Innovative Print Design. She is invited to speak internationally and works with organizations in the U.S., E.U. and U.K. See some example presentations. Birt holds a master’s degree from Design Academy Eindhoven (NL) and is Associate Professor at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

Cathy Abene, Principal Civil Engineer, Facilities Management, University of Minnesota

Cathy Abene is the principial civil engineer in Energy Management at the Twin Cities campus. After getting a Bachelor of Civil Engineering from the U, she worked for the Seattle Department of Transportation as well as the Hennepin County Transportation Department. Day to day, she helps manage the water, sewer, and stormwater utilities. This means overseeing operations and maintenance, system planning, design, and construction. She also oversees stormwater system inspections and ensures they are in compliance with the University's MS4 stormwater permit. While working at the U, she has enjoyed getting to know the unique infrastructure which dates back to the 1800s!

Anna Eleria, Planning, Projects & Grants Division Manager, Capitol Region Watershed District

Anna is responsible for the development and implementation of CRWD’s planning studies, capital improvement projects and grant programs. She manages the operation, maintenance and repair of CRWD’s Trout Brook Storm Sewer Interceptor System (TBI). She is also involved in stormwater management planning for the Snelling Midway Redevelopment Site. In addition, she served as project manager for CRWD’s Green Line Green Infrastructure Project and Highland Ravine Stabilization Project. Anna joined CRWD in 2008 and holds a B.S. in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies from the University of Minnesota and an M.S. in Water Resources Engineering from Tufts University.


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